“Being unafraid of making mistakes makes everything easy for me. Not worrying about what people think frees you to do things, and doing things allows you to win or learn from your loss — which means you win either way. Hear me now: you are better off being wrong ten times and being right three than you are if you try only three times and always get it right.” -Gary Vaynerchuk from his 2018 book “How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too”
Yes, it’s a bland image to be sure, but writing fiction isn’t all fun, games, and glory. Once a story is accepted, or in this case two, it doesn’t mean what you’ve submitted to the publisher is perfect. It just means that it’s a good story (well, I hope that’s what it means).
It also means that someone is going to go over your story with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, pointing out issues, everything from word usage to punctuation.
I participated in an online contest by writing an essay about how writers and other creative people can “build our brand”. Here’s the result.
Steven Lester Carr:
The panel of judges for the Building Your Brand project has selected the top three entries. First place and $50.00 goes to Elaine Marie Carnegie. Second place and $25.00 to Peter Astle. Third place and $25.00 to James Pyles.
Part of the money the winning entries received was part of a generous contribution of $25.00 that fellow Sweetycat Press member, Dawn Debraal, made toward this effort. Thank you, Dawn!
Thank you to all of you who submitted entries. Unfortunately there could only be a top three.
So the usual pattern for me and short stories is that I see a submissions call from (usually) an indie publisher, I read the particulars, look at the submissions deadline, and say to myself something like, “I can do that.”
Then as the deadline approaches, and I’ve met all (or most) of the other submissions deadlines I’ve set for myself, I try to come up with an idea for a story that fits the bill.
I prepare a Shunn formatted document, since that’s, more or less, the industry standard, for use as my manuscript pages. Then I copy the submissions requirements into a plain text document, and using other plain text files, create a plot sheet, a character sheet, and any other resources (in a long or complicated story, usually a bunch of URLs leading to research pages) necessary to create the background for my tale. And then I start writing.
I’ll skip over a lot of angst, and let’s say I have finished the first draft, edited it within an inch of its proverbial life, and then finally submitted it, using the method required by the publisher.
And then I wait.
Gerald jumped at everything, even when nothing was there. In spite of the warm, spring afternoon, he wore thermal underwear beneath his faded, torn denim pants, and two sweaters under the ancient, tattered, and stained Navy pea coat.
Long, tangled hair, white as the snow still on the mountains around Tahoe, shot out from his stocking cap, random stalks of alabaster wheat waving in the breeze.
Sad, brown eyes stared down at his worn trainers, the left one completely bereft of shoelaces, as they shuffled one after the other across the sidewalk’s concrete and cracks.
The voices muttered in his ears, and in the dankness of his squirming gray matter, a restless beast always striving to escape the prison of his skull.
First of all, I can barely stay awake, even though it’s not even six in the evening (as I write this). That means, I can’t think clearly. I’ve been trying for several days to finish a short story, but every evening when I get home from my slave job, I’m exhausted. My hours changed, so I have to get up at 5 in the morning. That used to be pretty normal for me, but as I get older, I have discovered that getting and then staying asleep at night is becoming more difficult.
Also, writing a novel in a month is either a challenge at best or torture and tyranny at worst. I did manage to write a 10,000 novelette in a week for a similar online challenge. It wasn’t chosen for publication, so now what do I do with it (actually, I have plans, but I still need time and a clear head to enable them)?
Last night I received an email saying that my twelfth short story has been accepted for publication in an anthology. Since I didn’t receive explicit permission to disclose details, I can’t tell you anything about it…yet.
Well, it was an adapted version of a story I wrote for a writing challenge. As I recall, it was a musical writing challenge. It was also a theme that I expanded into (most of) an online novel, so long time readers have probably come across at least part of it.
In time for Halloween, it’s horror but it’s also a love story (sort of).
This is on top of rejection after rejection after rejection. Really, I receive far more rejections than I do acceptances.
I’ve received three story rejections within a relatively short space of time recently, which is disheartening. The first one was a long shot I sent to Uncanny Magazine. I wasn’t surprised when they sent a very speedy rejection email back to me, but I figured “worth a shot.” Of course that means the short SciFi story has been rejected three times so far.
However, the other two I actually thought had a chance. Here are excerpts from them both:
NOTE: The one requirement for this anthology was that both dragons and vampires had to be included. I set my tale in alternate versions of World War Two just for giggles:
Hodhas and Meldaborne personally led the 2nd Airborne Wing of Dragons on their fourth night of successive attacks against Berlin, supported by scores of RAF Mosquitoes. The city suffered from round the clock bombing runs, with the American Army Air Force assailing the capital by day.
The RAF insignia was proudly displayed by the dragons, each wearing a large sash that encircled their torsos. Jagi, however, had hers painted directly on her scales.
“Maintain formation in the dive, my cohorts,” ordered Hodhas, who seemed all but invisible against the ebony sky. “Our plunge to the Reichstag is coming up in moments.” Each of the dragons tilted their wings in acknowledgement, deftly avoiding flak from anti-aircraft guns on the ground, or those few that were left after the last twenty-four hours of perpetual bombardment.
“On my mark…dive!” The obsidian mother dragon curved her body downward, folding her wings back like a falcon, and in unison, 58 other dragons, one of six remaining attack forces, followed, screaming out of the ether like enormous birds of prey.
“I see something ahead. Too small to be aircraft, and we know the Luftwaffe has been destroyed…” Hodhas never finished her sentence as hundreds, perhaps thousands of bats surged upward from the city under cover of darkness, each with a wingspan of six feet or more. Their cries were maddening, and both fang and claw pierced the armor of the dragons, causing blood to be drawn from a dozen wounds in a matter of seconds.
It’s too late for me to use this option (probably), but an incident (two, actually) occurred last week that got me to thinking.
I’ve already considered the idea that breaking into science fiction and fantasy as a conservative, religious, white, married, cisgender old man (and if you exist at a particular social and political extreme, all of that means I’m “evil”) might be a waste of time considering how the publishing industry in particular, and entertainment in general seems fairly prejudiced against creators who aren’t leftists and atheists (although I know some leftists who are religious). In science fiction in particular, this was played out in previous years by the Sad Puppies phenomenon, and not too long ago by the Comicsgate movement, which also seems to have gone by the wayside.
But as I mentioned, last week, a person responded to two of my missives on Facebook rather negatively. Normally, I take these things in stride, since “outrage” is something you get used to if you’re not following a popular social media narrative, but this time the person in question was in a position to significantly inhibit my future as an author, at least within a certain realm.
I won’t provide the specifics of this, but I will confess to having my anxiety level rise quite a bit and losing some sleep over it.